RI lawmakers debate eye care apps

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Should you be allowed to renew your glasses or contact lens prescription without a trip to the doctor’s office? That’s a question Rhode Island lawmakers are tackling.

Supporters of the proposed Consumer Protection in Eye Care Act say it will preserve the doctor-patient relationship. Opponents say ocular tele-medicine saves patients time and money.

Dr. Saya Nagori is an opthomologist at Simple Contacts, an app that allows contact lens wearers to renew prescriptions without an in-office doctor visit.

Dr. Nagori is licensed to practice in Rhode Island, but lives out-of-state and evaluates patients using two tests that are done via smartphone. The tests measure redness and vision.

“We make sure you have a clean bill of health,” Nagori said. “We make sure that you’re happy in your current lenses. We make sure you’ve had a dilated eye exam within the last four years. For young, healthy contact lens wearers, this app provides a seamless way for them to renew their prescription from home. It’s also a cheaper, more effective way for them to get the lenses.”

The remote exam is $10. Nagori said about 200,000 people have downloaded the Simple Contacts app.

Now, Rhode Island lawmakers are considering legislation that would restrict the use of the app and similar technology.

Dr. Maria Jablonski is an optometrist in Cranston. She testified in support of the legislation.

“It’s not a substitute for an eye exam,” Jablonski told Eyewitness News. “I just think there’s a lot of room for error there. Technology is very important in improving patient outcomes, but technology without any regulation or any professional input, I think, is just a dangerous situation potentially.”

Dr. Nagori disagrees. She believes tele-medicine is the future of medicine.

“You have to let this vision test happen in order to expand to other areas of more serious disease care,” Nagori said.

House and Senate committees held the bills (S-576 and H-5674) for further study.

Susan Campbell (scampbell@wpri.com) is the Call 12 for Action and Target 12 consumer investigator for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.